Have you ever seen a powerful movie, listened to a great piece of music
or finished a really good book and, coming away with a feeling of
profound happiness, said to yourself, "Everything makes so much
sense. I wish life were like that --" only to wonder if perhaps it could be
like that if only you could see things a little more clearly? Have you ever
felt like everything in your life probably made sense, but you were
missing some of the puzzle pieces, and so it remained a mystery to you?
If the answer is yes, then perhaps you have glimpsed the underlying
holism that surrounds us all the time, but which we are so often blinded
to by the sorrows that accompany even the happiest life. The quest for
this holism can take a lifetime, but it is worth the trip. And whether you
are recovering from trauma, incest, sexual abuse, cultural oppression
and confusion, or addiction, if you are seeking complete recovery, you
are in fact seeking to rediscover the holistic state. They are one and the
same. But what exactly is holism?
1. The Possibility of Holism: Envisioning
Holism is the goal of Authentic Process Therapy (APT). It encompasses
not only the feeling of being whole and complete in oneself, but also of
being integrated into the cosmos, one with nature, and connected with
all humanity. If we are able to envision for ourselves such a state or at
least accept that it is possible, we can recognize the need for a complete
recovery process which goes beyond healing addictions and compulsions.
Holism is a place of great joy, bliss, love, empowerment, creativity,
respect for all life, and peace, a place from which we can meet future
challenges with grace and wisdom. We come from a new integration,
having brought parts of ourselves (physical, emotional, psychological,
and spiritual) together at the deepest level of inner knowing. This leads
to integration and balance with every part having significant value and
Holism is the understanding that reality is made up of organic and
unified wholes that are greater than the simple sum of their parts. At the
core of this experience is what I call "shame-free presentation of the
self." When we reach a holistic state, we know who we are and no longer
feel ashamed or embarrassed by our difficult personal history. Of
course we will still be discriminating with regard to when and where we
share certain aspects of ourselves, but we will experience and radiate
the essence of true empowerment, entitlement and spiritual connectedness,
whether we express it verbally or not.
Authentic Process Therapy is a highly effective way of releasing crippling
toxic shame by exploring unconscious material and making it
conscious. When this happens, it releases an energy that appears to
enhance relationships with others and with the natural world. Carl Jung
called this phenomenon "transcendent function." He explained that
when unconscious content becomes conscious we experience a sense of
clarity, a fuller understanding of ourselves, an experience that goes beyond
ordinary, everyday consciousness. I refer to this as a glimpse of
holism -- a stroke of our own genius. It's almost like jumping to the top
of the World Trade Center!
In interviews with individuals who experience holism, it is not uncommon
to hear someone say, "I am awed," or "I never believed life
could be this special." This was certainly the case for me. It was not just
a passing euphoric feeling. It became established in my ground-of-being.
Once, the awe surrounding my own life experience was so great that I
sought out a therapist solely because I needed a safe place to humbly
share it. I needed a place where I knew I would be heard and would not
be triggering someone else's feelings of deprivation. It was a very special
sharing between the therapist and me, and I have since been able to
integrate awe and bliss as components of my everyday life. I, too, would
never have believed it.
Recovering people are often embarrassed and reluctant to share
blissful feelings because they are afraid they will be misunderstood, or
that the feelings will not last. It is vital to find what I call "cultural
safety:" safe friends, communities, or professionals with whom to share
these feelings. Sharing further enlivens and validates them and makes
them a real part of our daily experience. Small, validated experiences of
bliss become the foundation for more intense and enriching ones. These
loftier experiences, and the recognition of them in others, help create the
desire to bring them forth more fully. Knowing that they are realizable
motivates us to do the committed work which is part of Stage Two of
complete recovery, as you will see in Chapter Three.
Nonetheless, for most people, there is a large gap between the deep
holistic state and their "ordinary" awareness. With APT, this will lessen
in time, but there will always be some feeling of transition between the
two. To begin to get a grasp of how profoundly "different" the holistic
state can be, it might be helpful to explore what author Stanislav Grof,
M.D. calls "non-ordinary" states of consciousness.
In his Holotropic Breathwork trainings, people are taught to breathe
in a very specific manner until they reach a "non-ordinary" state in
which they begin to have physical, emotional, and sensory experiences
that empower them with a larger view of life. Often they discover repressed
traumatic conflicts or unfinished business from the past. These
events tend to be very healing, unleashing new energy and clarity.
Community healing, as discussed later, also produces a non-ordinary
state of consciousness. This is where deep healing occurs. When we
enter into such a community setting, we leave the everyday world behind
-- the world of right and wrong, good and bad, "more thans" and
"less thans" -- and we find and integrate our complex, more complete
selves. In the holistic perspective, there is no "normal" or "abnormal."
We are diverse by design. As the author Jean Houston once said, "A
normal person is someone you don't know very well."
An encounter with the holistic state of being may also bring with it
feelings of "non-ordinary" calm and detachment. When we expand our
perception of time, we see the impermanence of things and trust that it's
okay. My friends who practice Buddhism have been able to articulate to
me many of the finer points of nonattachment and impermanence. For
me, this has come to mean that as much as I may want to cling to certain
things, relationships, or even life itself, deep down in my soul I know
that I am okay without them. Somehow, my inner sense of knowing and
my experiences of transcendent spiritual calm give me something to fall
back on when other realities appear to desert me -- or at least the part of
me that wants to hold on. Similarly, in the experience of holism, people
report feeling less dependent on the "things" of life to feel whole and
content. They relax their sense of "holding on."
There is a look, or aura, that I perceive in people who have this personal
sense of awareness. I see it in some of the elders in the recovery
movement. I see it in some of the dynamic teachers and leaders in our
society. I see it in depictions of Buddha and Jesus and in the faces of
some of the wise people of many cultures. There is a kind of otherworldly
respect and knowing in their eyes. They seem content to feel their
serenity in privacy, even without verbalization. They have a presence that
goes beyond ordinary time and space. Psychologist Christina Grof, in
The Thirst for Wholeness, summarizes this beautifully:
As we become freer and more accepting, we awaken to our own
wholeness. The word "whole" means healthy, free from wound or
injury, healed. Wholeness is also defined as the unity or totality of
complex components. This is what we have been thirsting for -- and
it is possible to find it in our everyday world. As we experience
the spiritual awakening ... we unite with the divine, we
retrieve that core of wholeness within. A life of wholeness is a life
of health and balance. In the process of healing from our wounds,
we begin to harmonize our physical, emotional, mental and
spiritual parts. During our ... spiritual practice and through our
action in the world, we more easily integrate the small and the
deeper Self. The immanent divine meets the transcendent divine,
and we become aware of the miracle of our lives.
2. Barriers to Holism: Recognizing the Blindspots
Once we can envision our personal variation on the holistic state, we can
begin to identify areas in which that experience is blocked for us,
perhaps because some areas are too painful to examine and bring into
connection with the rest of our life. Some of these roadblocks might
include a lack of connection with ourselves and the world around us, a
lack of community or an inability to communicate with others. Addiction
(which is the way most people today cover up emotional pain) is
perhaps the most common wedge between us and the truth of things.
Stage One recovery, which we will describe later, deals with primary
addictions, those which clearly affect all aspects of our life. However,
there are countless more subtle forms of addiction most people never
notice. They are still roadblocks to holism, because their purpose is to
distract us from what's in front of us emotionally.
The split that we believe exists between spirituality and sexuality not
only separates us from our significant others, our spouses and loved
ones, but separates us from our bodies and from the natural world as
well. It is a major detour on the road to holism. It adds to the repression
of the shadow self (the dumping ground for the parts of our personality
we disown), and to the separation of the body, mind, and spirit. This can
lead to shame, and poor grounding of personal energy, which are roadblocks
Other barriers include ignorance of psychospiritual principles, lack
of respect for self and/or others, cultural pain, repressed trauma (and
the refusal to recognize our original pain and trauma), depression and
anxiety, confusing adult and childhood needs, and censoring our own
The Relationship Between Trauma, Addiction, & Holism
If you're like most people in recovery, you suffered traumas or loss
early in life, and received little or no help at the time. In order to survive
the pain, you began to dissociate, or cut yourself off from the part of
yourself that was in pain. During the time you were dissociating (fantasizing,
drinking, taking drugs, drowning your sorrows in any one of a
number of addictions or compulsions) you were splitting yourself into
safe little compartments, to hide the pain from others and from yourself.
We've all done it in some form. You began to fabricate stories around
your "shadow" parts to deflect attention from them. You began to create
stories around your over-compensating expanded ego too, as a hedge,
creating a "mask of composure," a facade that controlled what feelings
you let people see -- usually only those manipulative ones leading to
The light and dark sides of your mind became separated, and you
began to see every situation in black and white, with little or no shades
of gray. If something was not ideal, it was "hopeless." If something was
good, you "outlined" it, separated it from all other things, and attached
yourself to it as if it was your only hope. In the end, you had lost all
concept of what a whole self might be. Your fear had divided and conquered
your own being. Naturally, you became separated from the cosmos.
You became "disconnected from the stars," which in Latin was
expressed as "disastros." This disconnection still spells disaster any way
you put it.
Underlying our disconnection from the stars is disconnection with
ourselves. Underlying that dissociation is always pain. Underlying the
pain is fear, and underlying the fear is trauma. The trauma happened to
us: we didn't cause it, it's done, it's over and we can't undo it. But there
is a solution to your situation and to your suffering, one which will
dramatically change your life. For simplicity's sake, let's call it applying the
principles of Authentic Process Therapy and doing the healing work.
The antidote to traumatic memory is visualization. Redraw the picture
in your mind of your wound. Deep within you is that child that
was hurt, still the same age as when it all started. Visualize yourself as
an adult going back and helping that child that you were. Love and
protect that child that was traumatized. Watch over that child. Let him
or her know they are not alone, and that it was not their fault.
The antidote to fear is skill. Through the techniques and concepts
shared in this book and others that fall into your lap, realize that you are
learning skills that relate to almost every situation that could come up,
and that as you become more adept at handling these situations confidently,
fear will disappear by itself.
Once fear lessens its grip, the pain will lessen as well. Once the pain
diminishes, the need to dissociate will fade. Instead of running away in
fear, you will begin to look forward to exploring new adventures; small
ones at first, perhaps, but growing more and more bold as time heals
your wounds. As so many have said, "It is never too late to have a happy
The chart on the next page shows in the simplest terms how addiction
begins in pain and fear, and how it can be resolved back into a state
of complete recovery or holism through learning self-healing and situational
skills such as those presented in this book.
Understanding Repressed Trauma
As Buddha once said, "No one is free from suffering." Take a straw
poll among your friends and you will see that these words are as true
today as they were 2,650 years ago.
We all have repressed traumatic conflicts from childhood and adolescence.
Some of us have been exposed to more serious and direct physical,
sexual or emotional traumas. Does this mean we have to be in pain
all the time? No, but repressing the memory does not eliminate the pain,
it merely makes it harder to find, and gives it a life of its own. In Stage
Two Recovery we re-engage with forgotten memories in the spirit of
healing the pain.
Trauma is a global human phenomena. It means being wounded. It
means enduring an emotional shock that creates substantial and lasting
damage to one's psychological and emotional development. Humanity
has endured trauma since pre-neolithic times, and it shows no signs of
ending any time soon.
As children we have boundless interest, curiosity, energy, and a feeling
of ownership and connectedness with all that is. Our natural instincts
would be to let ourselves be molded by the land and the sky, for
we are firstly animals imbued with spirit and secondly humans with
thinking minds. Spared the influence of our civilization's dualistic thinking,
we would naturally have taken on different values such as many
indigenous, earthbased cultures have.
I am not diminishing the concept of civilization, but when we indoctrinate
children into such civilized concepts as dualistic thinking, and
make them adapt to what is not natural, we are traumatizing their organic
instincts to see and feel things in an intuitive, non-linear manner.
In many ways we crush their spirit and sense of wonder. This is an observation,
not a judgment. The point is, we all have traumatic losses to
heal on our path to wholeness. Addiction to substances and states of
being has its early roots in such traumas. While these cultural traumas
have now become universal, most of us have additionally suffered traumatic
wounds of an individual and personal nature.
These repressed traumas surface as forgotten physical injuries and
abuses, emotional neglect or torment, overt or covert sexual abuse or
psychological and emotional wounds. During this work, most people
will excavate from their depths an array of mild to serious wounds that
shaped their survival defenses. Some recovering people grew up in environments
characterized by alcoholism/addiction, emotional instability
or mental illness. Others experienced traumatic losses involving death,
adoption or divorce. Still others will discover what I refer to as
"endurance-trauma." Devastating in its subtlety and continuity, this is a
prolonged, day-in and day-out, low-grade threat to a person's sense of safety
While often stirring up feelings of loss, these surprises from the
unconscious also help us understand why we chose to become addicted. It
can be an "aha" experience. Some people, in the midst of unblocking
repressed trauma, develop their skill of sensory recall to the point where
they can even return to the experience of their own birth and to the earliest
months and years of their development, which can connect them
with a unique holistic experience. People who have not been exposed to
this process are bound to be skeptical at first. The only way to understand
is to experience it firsthand. It is all wonderfully mysterious, but
that does not make it unreal.
3. Steps Toward Complete Recovery: Dissolving
Barriers to Holism
In Authentic Process Therapy, the process from addiction, to unfulfilled
lives, to total recovery, is broken down into two multi-layered stages.
Stage One involves recognizing our disconnected state and our addictions,
and addressing them appropriately.
Stage Two involves the rediscovery of joy and connectedness
through dissolving the roadblocks to holism.
Stage One Recovery: Addressing Primary Addiction
Addiction has its roots in the human condition. We all share the potential
for becoming addicted, either to substances, processes, states, or
behaviors. In each case, these addictions cover up the pain which caused
us to fall out of grace with the cosmos in the first place. For those of us
who have a primary addiction, if we are to achieve wholeness and integration,
we need to allow this reality to surface and heal the wound. We
cannot do this without addressing the primary addiction (or addictions)
which disguise the pain and hide it from ourself and others.
There are eleven major steps or "stations" to Stage One Recovery:
1. Coming face-to-face with addiction/compulsion
2. Joining self-help groups
3. Finding a higher power and/or a new family of affiliation
4. Making a conscious decision to recover
5. Risking depending on others
6. Discovering new awareness, hope and motivation
7. Seeing support as a life saver
8. Recognizing more diverse feelings
9. Planting seeds for Stage Two work
10. Sharing family and personal secrets
11. Acknowledging and celebrating Stage One triumph
Stage Two Recovery: Expanding on What Works
Stage Two of our complete recovery is a community-based individual
process by which we learn to dissolve the internal roadblocks to
wholeness and holism not addressed by the Stage One healing process.
In this process, we learn to connect with others and with our environment
through community. At the same time we learn to connect with
our true self through unwrapping our pain with the facilitation of a
therapist or counselor.
Regaining the holistic state requires both reaching out to others and
reaching inward, perhaps at the same time, so that we realize our ultimate
goal of holistic interconnectedness with life, as we have envisioned
it. The stages within Authentic Process Therapy are experienced differently
for each individual. In Chapter Three, we will define and examine
the major tenets of Stage Two, and how they can guide us back towards
the holistic state.
From time to time I will use the word "crisis." While it can be a scary
word for many, it is also a very positive one. A crisis is a crucial or decisive
point or situation; a turning point. Because it includes a change or
shift in one's way of being, it sometimes carries with it a feeling of
instability. This is why we have community support, education, and facilitation,
allowing us to stay grounded while at the same time feeling unstable.
The reality is that no real change can occur in our way of being in
the world without such crises. They break down the old stagnant energy
systems in our bodies, giving birth to a newer sense of ourselves.
There are twelve "stations" within Stage Two Recovery, six "fundamental"
stations and six "emergent" stations. Each is a healing crisis
that most people engaging in this work encounter at some point in time.
The Six Fundamental Stations are:
1. Finding the unconscious through the "inner child"
2. Awakening your body: finding your grounding
3. Exploring the sexual-spiritual split: the cornerstone of self-recognition
4. Revisiting "adolescent awkwardness"
5. Re-experiencing original pain and trauma
6. Grieving unresolved losses
The real landmark, or milestone of these fundamental stations is,
"Healing the Sexual/Spiritual Split." After the healing crisis stage
of the fundamental stations is engaged, we can begin the Six Emergent
Stations. These are points of deep realization that occur as the
roadblocks to holism start to disappear. They are:
7. Letting go: the authentic presentation of self
8. Corrective experience: learning more effective behavior
9. Separating adult needs from childhood needs
10. Integrating the shadow self
11. Updating and re-tuning the unconscious
12. Experiencing self-love and self-assertion
The major milestone of the Emergent Stations is "Separating adult
needs from childhood needs." These are all defined and described in
more detail in Part Two.
Out of these Emergent Stations comes a growing feeling of integration
and wholeness, and a more profound relationship with others, and
with all life. Gradually, the process begins to bear fruit. The benefits of
the holistic state sometimes become evident before we recognize that we
ourselves are in touch with it. These fruits might include a feeling of
empowerment, an integration of body, mind and spirit in ways that are
suddenly tangible to us, a desire to serve our world, an increasing ability
to rely on intuition and inner knowing, hunches, and "nudges," a
feeling of accomplishment without self-flagellation or hurtful gloating,
feelings of awe and bliss, a feeling of boundless creativity, spiritual
intimacy, a sense of respect for the self and for others, an acceptance and
consequent awareness of impermanence, a growing sense of serendipity,
(combining grace and synchronicity), an awareness of undergoing
transpersonal healing, and the ability to present oneself in a shame-free
and honest manner.
The Fruits of the Tree
The tree diagram (see page 15) is both a flat map and a bird's eye
view of the healing journey to complete recovery through Authentic
Process Therapy. It becomes a living map with a pulse when we bring
our hearts and minds to the process outlined in these page. Like looking
at Manhattan Island from atop the World Trade Center, we get to look
down on the terrain before going down into it.
This bird's eye view has several potential effects: It can make the
emergence into the healing process less frightening because we know
what to expect; we can see that others are sharing this adventure with
us, see what the benefits of the adventure are, and when things get
tough, we can pull ourselves out, go back to the bird's eye view and
reassess our position. Most importantly, we get to refine or acquire new
skills. Intuition is our compass; as we begin to trust it, we will be guided
to wherever we need to be in the tree. It will also guide us to the people,
communities, and processes that we need for our individual journey.
This is what brings pulsing, teeming aliveness to the process.
If you look at the tree you will discover an interesting reality. All
twelve of the Stage Two stations end in ing which means they all relate
to doing. In other words, earnest effort must be applied. The fruits of
the tree, or the rewards of the journey, are all states of being. States of
being by their very nature do not require doing anything. They are without
negative stress. (Positive stress does accompany the state of pure being
and becoming, but its consequence is a feeling of aliveness rather than
the depression that accompanies the negative stress of suppression/
oppression.) When you experience the fruits of the tree, there is no conscious
effort -- just reward! Imagine reaping rewards for just being and
becoming who you really are -- it is really that wonderful.
You now have a bird's eye view of the living map, looking at the
two-stage recovery process from the lofty vantagepoint of the holistic
perspective. Now let's go down to street level, and walk around some
of these concepts and try to get a handle on what's really going on, using
all our imaginative faculties of sense and sight and feeling. Let's
begin the journey itself.